Leading Small Group Discussions

Beginning in 2011, King’s Grant is preparing to “Hear God’s Voice” and then “Take Steps of Faith.” I’ll post the emphasis is detail later, but for now, my main concern is to invite people to become a part of the journey. My desire is for people to get involved in what God is doing at KGBC, and from where I stand, we need people involved in the leadership of small groups. That is where theological belief meets practical living. In our winter semester (starting in February), I plan on helping our people to improve at what they are doing in small groups, and also to invite new people to investigate if this type of service is for them.

How To Lead Small Group Bible Study Discussions: Why do some Bible study discussion groups sparkle with interest and worthwhile discoveries, while others seem to drag-even though all are studying the living word of God?

Guidelines – To lead a Bible study group successfully and to make this time of fellowship in God’s word a highlight of everyone’s week, consider these guidelines:

  1. Keep the group small (four to eight persons is probably best).
  2. Discuss only the Bible and its application to life.
  3. As the discussion leader, be a chairman rather than a lecturer or teacher.
  4. Before the discussion time, write out a list of questions that will stimulate active discussion.
  5. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you lead.
  6. Pray, prepare, pray.

Why Keep it Small?
A small group encourages even quiet members to talk about what they discover in the Bible, and to share problems and to ask questions. They will grow in their ability to speak comfortably about spiritual issues.

With this kind of discussion setting in which all participate, the members will be more motivated to complete their individual study preparation beforehand. They’ll become more personally involved with what God says in the Bible, and will also profit greatly from hearing the rich discoveries that others in the group are making.

A face-to-face Bible discussion group also provides opportunity for members to get to know one another better, with God and his word at the center of their relationships.

Finally, since the leader of such a group acts as a chairman rather than a teacher, it isn’t necessary for him to know a great deal more about the subject than others in the group. Leading Bible study groups is therefore an excellent ministry opportunity for laymen.

What Should We Aim For?
Perhaps your most important aim is to study the Bible itself. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for resetting the direction of man’s life and training him in good living. The Scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God, and fit him fully for all branches of his work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 , Phillips).

Because of this supreme value of Scripture, we want to discover the truths of the Bible, and to understand or interpret their meaning and relevance, This should be the focus of the group’s time together.

Another important aim is to apply the Bible to our daily lives. God wants to change us, not just inform our minds. Keep thinking about these questions.

  1. Which of the these truths in the Scriptures do we need to act on now?
  2. What are we already doing about this, and where are we failing?

Application can also mean using what you have learned to help someone else, or remembering such things as important scriptural doctrines, God’s attributes, and his promises. The three basic aims of Bible study and discussion are:

  1. Discover—finding out what the Bible says,
  2. Understanding—recognizing what it means,
  3. Application—doing, using, and remembering what it says.

What Does the Leader Do?
The Bible discussion leader asks questions which help each group member become a “discoverer.” The leader is not a teacher. He is a guide and a participant himself He uses questions that help the group members discover, understand, and apply biblical truths. He does this by:

  1. Launching the discussion
  2. Guiding the discussion
  3. Summarizing the discussion

A good launching question is one that simply asks the group members what they discovered on their own in a particular section or question of their Bible study preparation. This means using phrases such as “What did you learn?” “What did you observe?” “What did you discover?” “What impressed you?” For example: “What did you learn from this section about prayer?”

To guide the discussion means keeping it moving, and drawing out the principal thoughts the group is sharing. You can ask questions like these! “Who else would like to comment on that?” “What does someone else see in this verse?” “Does anyone else want to add something?”

When the discussion wanders away from the Bible, you may need to get the group back on track by saying, “What we’re discussing is interesting, but we’ve left our topic. Perhaps we could discuss this more at a different time.” Then you could present a thought-provoking question that draws the group back to the biblical issues you were discussing.

Summarizing the discussion is something you may want to do frequently throughout the group’s time together. Your summary will serve as a brief review and as a transition to another topic. Remember to summarize what the group has discussed, rather than your own insights. Don’t preach.

How Do I Ask Questions?
Questioning is a powerful method of stimulating thought. So the more you plan and evaluate the questions you ask in a Bible study group, the greater will be your effectiveness as a leader.

One of the main reasons for asking questions is to help people understand biblical principles. Our questions can help them grasp the basic issue a particular verse or passage is addressing.

Once the group has identified this biblical principle, you can ask a follow-up question that ties in this principle to a specific situation This can be a real-life situation or a hypothetical one, but it should help the group realize how the principle can be practically applied. Then they can see more clearly how the Scriptures can actually change our lives.

When you ask a question, look around the group until someone answers it. Then you can ask “What did others of you find?” or “What did someone else discover?” Again, look around the whole group, watching for anyone who wants to speak instead of pointing out a specific individual.

To begin with, the group members will probably look directly at you as they give their replies. But if you patiently persist with good guiding questions, the members will begin responding to the group instead of to the leader. Thus, true discussion will begin. Rather than being leader-centered, they will become group-centered.

The best way to learn these methods is to write out your discussion questions beforehand.

Common Errors – Try to Avoid These Things:

  1. Not making the questions sound conversational. Even though you prepare and write out your questions beforehand speak them in a conversational tone. And use your own natural vocabulary.
  2. Being afraid of silence after ask a question. Don’t be impatient or nervous. Give everyone time to think.
  3. Limiting yourself to asking questions. The leader is also a participant in the group. Share freely your answers and observations, but don’t dominate the discussion.
  4. Combining two questions in one. Ask one question at a time.
  5. Not explaining what you want the group to do. You’re in charge. Don’t hesitate to step in from time to time to influence the direction of the discussion, to end the discussion on time, to call on someone to pray, and so on.
  6. Trying to maintain too much control. If the discussion “takes off,” don’t worry about it as long as the group doesn’t wander too far from the Scriptures.
  7. Asking a question which can be answered “yes” or “no.” This type of question hinders discussion.
  8. Asking questions that are too complex. State each question simply and clearly.
  9. Emphasizing your own viewpoint or application. Don’t expect everyone to be deeply impressed with the same things in Scripture that deeply impressed you.

A Checklist – Here are Questions to Ask Yourself After Each Group Discussion:

  1. Was I familiar enough with the material to feel free in leading the discussion?
  2. Did everyone take part in the discussion? Or was it a lecture (with me doing most of the talking), or a conversation among only two or three of us?
  3. Did we keep to the subject without wandering?
  4. Did I frequently summarize the main ideas that were brought up by the group?
  5. Did the discussion lead to further understanding of the truths the group members discovered in their personal Bible study?
  6. Did we discuss adequately how we can apply what we learned to our lives?
  7. Did the discussion end on time?

This is an article from Discipleship Journal, November 1981. [print_link] [email_link]

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